The Threepenny Opera

 Barry Kosky’s directing of the Berliner Ensemble’s The Threepenny Opera was much anticipated by Festival goers. It has not disappointed. 

The Threepenny Opera is based to a large extent on a ballad opera composed by John Gay in 1700s. The Beggar’s Opera, was a satirical poke at Italian Opera, at the time. Following a translation of the script and story line The Threepenny Opera has Brecht and Weill doing the same to Wagnerian opera. Their music  grew from Jazz and German dance music. Still based in London, what they have done is draw aside a rock to reveal the machinations of the lower criminal class who hypocritically spout Christian texts and morality while abiding by the dictum that ‘the world is poor and men are bad, there is of course no more to add.’

As in any underworld there is a pecking order. Jonathan Jeremiah Peachum (Tilo Nest) has the game all sewn up with The Beggar’s Friend Ltd, which yields him and his family a satisfactory profit. Threatened by the new man on the block Macheath (Gabriel Schneider) the status quo is unsettled when Polly Beachum (Cynthia Micas) tells her parents that she  has married Macheath. And so the tale unwinds to the unlikely end when Macheath rescued from the gallows at the last moment, is made a Peer of the Realm. This is satire at its cynical best.

Much of the action takes place among a pattern of scaffolding, which is used, at times, to illustrate the relationships, and the changing dynamics between the characters. In contrast the prison scene is stark, as is the sight of Macheath swinging from the gallows.

The musicians and all the singers are wonderful, Macheath as the cocky charismatic wannabe cuts a swathe among the women, and Jonathan Peachum, together with his wife Celia (Constanze Becker) are the lynchpins of much of the action. The scene between Polly Peachum and Lucy Brown (Laura Balzer)  as they fight over who is loved by Macheath, singing  the jealousy duet, is a total hoot.

Jackie ‘Tiger’Brown (Kathrin Wehlisch) with his nervous laughter, spasmodic at times, creates more humour.

 Needless to say all the performers were first rate, and the three hours did not seem too long at all, which is an indication of the excellence of the whole production.

Her Majesty’s Theatre

Berliner Ensemble

Directed by Barry Kosky

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